The difference between photoelectric effect and atomic spec

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The difference between photoelectric effect and atomic spec

Postby Chem_Mod » Sat Sep 03, 2011 3:30 am

Question: What's the difference between the photoelectric effect and atomic spectra/spectroscopic experiments. I know that both require light to shine on a metal and detect the motion of the electrons. The photoelectric effect tells if the wavelength is small enough to move the electron to the positively charged detector. Doesn't the atomic spectra experiment do the same thing, but with more complications? It detects how much the electron moves and to which energy level it travels. Are they really that similar, or what did I misunderstand?

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Re: The difference between photoelectric effect and atomic s

Postby Chem_Mod » Sat Sep 03, 2011 3:30 am

Answer: You are correct in that they are both closely related to one another. The photoelectric effect refers to the physical phenomenon of electron emission as a result of the absorption of sufficiently high-energy photons. Atomic spectroscopy, on the other hand, is a way to observe the emission of photons once the electrons relax. It does not directly deal with what happens to the electrons, rather, calculations from the photon's energy allow us to figure out what happened to the electrons.

The photoelectric effect deals with the emission of electrons, and atomic spectra deal with the emission of photons. Both are caused by the absorption of photons. However, the photoelectric effect requires the electron to absorb enough energy to be completely ejected, whereas atomic spectroscopy can observe the photons emitted from the relaxation between any energy levels.


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